Kent v. United States,
383 U.S. 541 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966)

Kent v. United States

No. 104

Argued January 19, 1966

Decided March 21, 1966

383 U.S. 541


Petitioner was arrested at the age of 16 in connection with charges of housebreaking, robbery and rape. As a juvenile, he was subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the District of Columbia Juvenile Court unless that court, after "full investigation," should waive jurisdiction over him and remit him for trial to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Petitioner's counsel filed a motion in the Juvenile Court for a hearing on the question of waiver, and for access to the Juvenile Court's Social Service file which had been accumulated on petitioner during his probation for a prior offense. The Juvenile Court did not rule on these motions. It entered an order waiving jurisdiction, with the recitation that this was done after the required "full investigation." Petitioner was indicted in the District Court. He moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the .Juvenile Court's waiver was invalid. The District Court overruled the motion, and petitioner was tried. He was convicted on six counts of housebreaking and robbery, but acquitted on two rape counts by reason of insanity. On appeal, petitioner raised, among other things, the validity of the Juvenile Court's waiver of jurisdiction; the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed, finding the procedure leading to waiver and the waiver order itself valid.

Held: The Juvenile Court order waiving jurisdiction and remitting petitioner for trial in the District Court was invalid. Pp. 383 U. S. 552-564.

(a) The Juvenile Court's latitude in determining whether to waive jurisdiction is not complete. It

"assumes procedural regularity sufficient in the particular circumstances to satisfy the basic requirements of due process and fairness, as well as compliance with the statutory requirement of a 'full investigation.'"

Pp. 383 U. S. 552-554.

(b) The parens patriae philosophy of the Juvenile Court "is not an invitation to procedural arbitrariness." Pp. 383 U. S. 554-556.

(c) As the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has held, "the waiver of jurisdiction is a critically important'

Page 383 U. S. 542

action determining vitally important statutory rights of the juvenile." Pp. 383 U. S. 556-557.

(d) The Juvenile Court Act requires "full investigation," and makes the Juvenile Court records available to persons having a "legitimate interest in the protection . . . of the child. . . ." These provisions, "read in the context of constitutional principles relating to due process and the assistance of counsel," entitle a juvenile to a hearing, to access by his counsel to social records and probation or similar reports which presumably are considered by the Juvenile Court, and to a statement of the reasons for the Juvenile Court's decision sufficient to enable meaningful appellate review thereof. Pp. 383 U. S. 557-563.

(e) Since petitioner is now 21, and beyond the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court, the order of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the District Court are vacated, and the case is remanded to the District Court for a hearing de novo, consistent with this opinion, on whether waiver was appropriate when ordered by the Juvenile Court.

"If that court finds that waiver was inappropriate, petitioner's conviction must be vacated. If, however it finds that the waiver order was proper when originally made, the District Court may proceed, after consideration of such motions as counsel may make and such further proceedings, if any, as may be warranted, to enter an appropriate judgment."

Pp. 383 U. S. 564-565.

119 U.S.App.D.C. 378, 343 F.2d 247, reversed and remanded.

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